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Feds give Klamath settlement talks time
John Driscoll The Times-Standard
Federal energy regulators gave more time to agencies, tribes, fishermen, farmers, environmentalists and a power company to resolve issues surrounding dams on the Klamath River, a sign that a settlement could be close.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Friday agreed to give the groups until March 29 to file comments and recommendations. The commission had denied an earlier request.

The dams block salmon from reaching historic spawning grounds, and the reservoirs have poor water quality in the summer. But the project provides cheap power to irrigators upstream at present. Tribes and irrigators, which have butted heads for years, earlier this week announced that they would work together toward a settlement.

On Feb. 7, Pacificorp, owner of the six dams on the Klamath River that are the subject of a license renewal, and the participants in the parallel settlement talks, wrote to FERC asking for an additional 30 days.

”Based on very significant progress in negotiation achieved on Feb. 1-2,” Pacificorp compliance manager Toby Freeman wrote, “representatives believe an extension is necessary and will substantially facilitate the continued development of a comprehensive settlement agreement.”

But it took the later Interior Department request to gain the extension.

”Given the short time frame involved with your request and your assurance that the parties will not be asking for further extensions, we will grant your request,” wrote Mark Robinson, director of energy projects for FERC.

The confidential settlement talks have been occurring for months, though recently there has been a buzz that a deal is close. How close depends on who you talk with.

”I think it is safe to say that people are optimistic in that there is potential for reaching an agreement,” said Tim McKay of the Northcoast Environmental Center, a party in the talks.

Rep. Mike Thompson said he's hopeful for a resolve, especially one that will lead to the restoration of the Klamath's salmon fishery.

”I don't know if the settlement is near,” said the St. Helena Democrat, “but we're going to continue to press on this.”

John Driscoll covers natural resources/industry. He can be reached at 441-0504 or jdriscoll@times-standard.com.




Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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